Back pain relief stretches can help to alleviate discomfort and pain associated with spinal tension or stiffness. Stretching is an excellent way to activate underused muscles and provide pain relief while boosting mobility and flexibility. Many back pain stretches can also improve posture and your overall range of motion. When stretching, proper technique is essential to minimize the risk of an injury and maximize the positive effects of the stretch.
If you’re curious about back pain and stretching and which exercises you can use for pain relief, check out various types of stretches below:
5 Stretches to Ease Lower Back Pain
If you have lower back pain, you’re not alone. Approximately 80% of the population will experience an episode of lower back pain at some time during their life. Fortunately, you can use various simple stretches to relieve your pain, helping increase your mobility in the process.
1. Child’s Pose Stretch
The child’s pose stretch can help to alleviate low back pain through loosening overly tight or constricted back muscles. This stretch is a great way to work the gluteus maximus, spinal extensors and hamstrings. In addition to easing lower back pain, the child’s pose stretch can also improve tension in the neck, shoulders and upper spine. Lower back pain relief stretches, such as the child’s pose, can help to improve blood circulation and promote flexibility.
- Kneel on the floor and place your hands shoulder-width apart in front of your knees.
- Walk your hands as far ahead as possible while keeping your palms fully on the floor.
- Lower your hips to rest on your heels as you rest your belly on your thighs.
- During this stretch, breathe deeply and relax any areas of tightness or tension
- Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as it’s comfortable.
2. Cat-Cow Stretch
The cat-cow stretch is a stretch for lower back pain that can release tension and massage your spine for pressure relief. This exercise is one of the best stretches for lower back pain to help promote circulation and blood flow while also improving tension in the neck, shoulders, torso and lower back.
- Kneel on the ground and place your palms on the floor shoulder-width apart and evenly balance your weight on all four points.
- Inhale while you lift your neck to look up, simultaneously dropping your abdomen toward the ground and extending your spinal column.
- As you exhale, curve your spine toward the ceiling and look down while bringing your chin to your chest.
- Continue this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
While the cat-cow stretch is typically performed on the floor, there’s a standing variation of this stretch for those who can’t comfortably kneel on the ground. Rather than kneel on the ground, you’ll simply stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your hands on your knees and proceed with the steps above.
3. Knee-to-Chest Stretch
Tightness or tension in the hips is a common cause of lower back pain or discomfort. A knee-to-chest stretch is a great way to alleviate tension and pain from the hips, lower back, hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. The knee-to-chest stretch works one leg at a time to activate the piriformis muscle and provide pain and tension relief.
- Lie down on your back and bend both knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
- While extending your left leg straight along the floor, bring your right knee into your chest with your hands gently clasped around your knee.
- During a knee-to-chest stretch, elongate your spine and make sure to keep your hips on the floor.
- Focus on deep breathing as you hold this pose for one to two minutes.
- Lower your right leg and repeat the above steps with your left leg.
4. Lower Back Twist
A spinal twist is an excellent stretch to alleviate lower back pain and improve stiffness. A seated lower back twist can be a great stretch to loosen the spine, hips and gluteus maximus. A lower back twist can also help to promote improved mobility in the spine while providing an extra stretch for the neck, shoulders and abdomen.
- Sit comfortably on a yoga mat or cushion and extend both of your legs fully in front of you.
- Bring your right knee closer to your chest while placing your right foot on the outside of your left thigh.
- Make sure your right foot is over your left leg and resting on the ground.
- Bring your left arm and cross it over your body until your left elbow rests on your right knee while facing away from your body.
- For support, you can place your other hand on the ground.
- Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch on the other side.
5. Pelvic Tilt
A pelvic tilt is a stretch that can strengthen the abdominal muscles while providing relief from pain, stiffness and tightness in the lower back. In addition to targeting the abdomen and lower back, a pelvic tilt can also benefit the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. Weak abdominal muscles can cause more stress to fall on the lower back, causing pain and tension.
- Lie down comfortably on your back while bending both knees and placing your feet on the floor.
- Place your hands under your head and keep your shoulders flat on the floor.
- Tighten your abdomen muscles and press your back into the floor.
- Hold this muscle contraction for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Release this abdominal contraction and let your spine rest normally.
- Repeat this stretch two to three times while taking a few deep breaths between each stretch
5 Stretches for Middle Back Pain
Stretches for mid-back pain can improve overly tight muscles and open the middle of the back and chest to relieve built-up tension or pressure. Many mid-back stretches can also improve posture, flexibility and mobility of the upper body.
1. Passive Backbend
A passive backbend is a great back pain relief stretch that can elongate the spine and reduce tightness. The passive backbend is a simple stretch that doesn’t require much effort, making it ideal for someone looking for a simple mid-back stretch to relieve pain and discomfort. Because this stretch requires no active concentration, you can hold this stretch for as long as you’d like.
- Lie down on a yoga mat and use a balled blanket, towel or a yoga block for support.
- Place the support under your back so it rests against the bottom of the shoulder blades.
- Relax in this position and let your spinal column stretch and decompress.
- Focus on deep, steady breaths.
- Hold this position for as long as it’s comfortable.
2. Shoulder Stretch
A shoulder stretch is a fantastic way to open up the mid-back and stretch the latissimus dorsi muscle, which is the largest muscle of the upper body. You can do these stretches to relieve back pain while sitting or standing — just remember to elongate the spine and keep your chest raised.
- Stand or find a comfortable seat and raise your left hand above your head.
- Bend your left elbow so your left hand falls towards your shoulders and upper back.
- Bring your right hand to your left elbow, gently hold it and pull your left arm to the right.
- While applying this gentle pressure to your left elbow, bend your body to the right while ensuring you don’t lean forward or backward.
- Hold this shoulder stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch on the other shoulder.
3. Cobra Pose
The cobra pose can activate the spinal column and help to relieve tension on the vertebrae. Many people with mid-back pain may not be able to initially stretch deeply into the cobra pose, but they’ll improve as they continue practicing. Try not to push yourself to do more than you can handle, as you may accidentally injure yourself.
- Lay down so your chest is resting on a yoga mat or another soft surface.
- Extend your legs and feet so the top of your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
- Bring your hands beneath the front of your shoulders with your fingers facing forward.
- Bend your elbows so you can tuck your arms closer into your body.
- Breathe deeply as you use your arms to gently lift your upper body from the floor.
- Engage your legs and lower body muscles to provide stability to your upper body.
- If possible, straighten your arms so you can lift your chest further and go deeper into this stretch.
- Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Bridge Stretch
A bridge stretch can strengthen the spinal, abdominal and buttocks muscles. In addition to being an effective back pain relief stretch, the bridge pose can help to improve and maintain posture while standing or sitting. Additionally, the bridge stretch can open the hip flexors and stimulate your core.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground.
- With your knees bent, rest your arms by your sides.
- While squeezing the muscles of your buttocks, bring your pelvis upwards towards the ceiling.
- Raise your back off the ground while rolling your torso upward towards the ceiling.
- Rest your weight on your shoulders as you use your feet to raise your body upward.
- Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds while focusing on squeezing the gluteus maximus and breathing deeply.
- Lower your body gently back to the ground and rest your back against the floor.
- Repeat this stretch two to three times.
5. Corner or Doorway Stretch
The corner stretch is a simple mid-back stretch you can do in the corner of a room or an open doorway to improve back pain related to poor posture or sloping shoulders.
- Face the corner of a room or open doorway.
- Position your feet together about two feet away from an open doorway or corner.
- Place one forearm on each side of the door or corner with elbows placed a little below shoulder height.
- While your forearms are resting on the doorframe or wall, lean forward as you feel the stretch in your shoulder blades and chest.
- Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
4 Stretches for Upper Back Pain
Stretches for upper back pain can alleviate pain, discomfort, stiffness and more from the neck and upper back. Many upper back stretches can improve shoulder and neck mobility while promoting proper posture, as well.
1. Shoulder Roll
A shoulder roll is an effective stretch for upper back pain that can loosen stiff muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Shoulder rolls are ideal for removing accumulated tension, tightness and stress in the upper back and shoulders while also being a helpful tool to improve posture. The shoulder roll stretch can also help to improve blood flow and circulation throughout the upper back and shoulders.
- Stand with your arms resting at your sides.
- Roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch two to three times.
2. Upper Butterfly Stretch
An upper butterfly stretch can open up a tight chest and release upper back tension, specifically in the shoulders and shoulder blades. It also works to improve your posture while promoting increased circulation and blood flow.
- Sit in a chair with your spine elongated.
- Bring your fingertips to your shoulders.
- Point your elbows out to the sides.
- While keeping your fingertips resting on your shoulders, slowly bring your elbows forward until they touch or are close to touching.
- Exhale deeply as you bring your elbows forward and ensure you keep your spine neutral and straight.
- Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.
- As you move your elbows back out to the starting position, inhale a few deep breaths.
- Repeat this stretch three to five times.
3. W Retract Strech
The W retract stretch is a simple stretch you can perform while standing or sitting comfortably. This stretch doesn’t require any equipment, such as a yoga mat, so you can do this stretch almost anywhere when you need to loosen your upper back. A W retract stretch can open up the chest and activate the shoulders, shoulder blades and upper back to relax stiff muscles and improve circulation.
- Sit or stand comfortably with your spine neutral.
- Extend your arms up at an angle with palms facing away from your body.
- Bring your arms down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, creating a W shape when both of your arms are retracted.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades as you hold this stretch for a few seconds.
- Release this stretch and raise your arms to the original starting position.
- Repeat this stretch three to five times.
4. Neck Rotation
Neck rotations can help to alleviate upper back pain while decreasing overall tightness and compression in the neck. Because the neck is one of the parts of the body most prone to injury, you may want to keep this stretch in your back pocket. Neck rotations are a powerful stretch that can reduce overall stiffness and promote increased blood flow and circulation.
- Stand or sit comfortably.
- Begin by tilting your neck to the left, feeling the stretch through your neck and shoulders.
- Slowly roll your neck in a clockwise direction and pause when you reach your right shoulder.
- Roll your neck slowly back to your left shoulder as you feel the stretch throughout your neck.
- Repeat this neck rotation sequence three to five times while breathing deeply.
Contact Thrive Chiropractic Group for Expert Chiropractic Care for Back Pain
At Thrive Chiropractic Group, we dedicate ourselves to providing effective chiropractic solutions to improve chronic pain, tension and stiffness. We strive to help as many people as possible take control of their health and feel relief from acute and chronic pain. Our chiropractic care services can help athletes, seniors, expecting mothers and everyone in between get back to living life to the fullest.
Call our office at 405-604-5295 or request an appointment to learn more about our chiropractic treatments and how to loosen tight back muscles.